Bioenergy in Europe
Sustainable bioenergy is a win-win solution for energy generation
Bioenergy is a readily available source of energy and green growth. It diversifies farmers’ and foresters’ income creating local added value. It also enables investments to develop innovation, improves sustainability performance, and adopts environment-friendly practices.
The National Energy and Climate plans from Member States rely on bioenergy for the achievement of their climate and energy targets.
Sustainable feedstock use should not be minimised
The transformative approach for bioenergy referred to in the leaked biodiversity strategy calls for minimising the use of certain feedstock categories, such as food and feed crops and whole trees.
But the former is an over-simplification in the case of European biofuels, as: 1) only a small percentage of EU utilised arable land is used for biofuel production that creates both fuel and feed and other valuable biomaterials; and 2) as the Commission confirms regularly in its Renewable Energy Progress Reports, European biofuels production is sustainable and its impact on food prices is negligible. When farmers apply sequential cropping and crop rotations, local biodiversity is protected compared to mono-cropping systems. Maize, triticale, wheat, or ryegrass silage can all be produced as sequential crops in regimes of crop rotation. They are grown as an additional (second) crop before or after the harvest of the main crop on the same agricultural land. More plants on the field also increase the natural photosynthesis activity and CO2 removal from the atmosphere. Enriching the soil with carbon enhances soil quality, health, and fertility to grow more nutritious food.
The latter (whole trees) is an arbitrary definition: a restriction over use of feedstock categories would not foster further sustainability or biodiversity conservation but would only complicate compliance. Wood market prices guarantee an efficient allocation of forest resources: the bioenergy sector purchases what is left by other sectors, including low-value and otherwise unmarketable thinnings (whole trees). High-quality wood, being unaffordable for the bioenergy sector, is used for high-value products such as buildings and furniture.
Ensure legal certainty and long-term perspective
The Renewable Energy Directive recast sustainability framework will be applicable after Member States have implemented it, by July 2021. This includes requirements taking into consideration biodiversity maintenance. Evoking possible review of these criteria before their implementation throws an important economic sector into uncertainty.
We call on the European Commission to shape the future biodiversity policy within realistic, yet ambitious objectives, and to acknowledge the current Renewable Energy Directive as the reference framework to address all aspects of bioenergy sustainability and ensure strengthened requirements apply to both domestic and imported feedstock.